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***LONG POST, BUT I WOULD APPRECIATE ANY ADVICE FROM SOMEONE WHO READS IT THROUGH***

So, I am really not sure where to go from here. My wife and me got married young and have been married now for about five and a half years. Things were great when we were dating and during the first year or two of marriage we only fought occasionally. Fighting has become progressively more frequent since then and now it seems almost daily. There are ups and downs, but it has gotten to the point where she threatens divorce every day. Do I hold on to the ups as rationale for sticking it out? Or do I see the roller-coaster and threats as an indicator that it is time to move on?

Her behavior when we fight has become increasingly irrational as well. It used to just be arguments. After awhile she started slamming doors, then throwing things, then breaking things or threatening to break things. She will give me the silent treatment or cold-shoulder for hours or sometimes even a day or so. When she does get mad, it is usually unpredictable and very fast; like content to furious in a matter of seconds. In the past year, she has slapped me in public on two occasions. We were out with friends both times. Once it was because I went to the bathroom and she didn't know where I was and the other was after I tried to calm her down outside after she almost fought some random girl for flirting with me. I mention that we were out with friends both for context and, out of fairness, I could easily attribute those actions to insobriety.

The biggest blow, however, came two months into a recent deployment to Iraq (while I didn't know it at the time). About 10-11 months into the deployment, she admitted to me that two months after I left, she cheated on me while on a business trip. After speaking with a pastor and some struggling reflection, I forgave her. Everybody has moments of weakness and I know as well as anyone that deployments are hard on a lonely spouse at home. That said, my trust was irreversibly betrayed. I do my best to keep that in my past, but subtle lingerings of distrust inevitably manifest themselves from time to time. In my opinion, it seems no more than would occur in a marriage where infidelity had not occurred, but of course I am biased. She, however, uses these opportunities to turn her infidelity around on me to demonize for not trusting her. (Admittedly, it seems a little absurd to me, in that I didn't ask for this to occur. If she wouldn't have cheated, the distrust would not be present.)

Whether it is a product of the preceding issue or not, I will offer, in brief, that our sex life has become dull and almost nonexistent. It mildly concerns me that either she feels nothing for me anymore or that she truly is looking elsewhere.

Be that as it may, whether it is that, if the dishes are done, what we are having for dinner, or who is taking the dog out, there are fights almost every day...almost. She keeps saying she is unhappy and keeps threatening divorce more often. Writing this, and thinking about how someone might read it thus far, it seems like a no-brainer; give her the divorce she says she wants. But from my perspective, it doesn't seem so clear.

First, I think it's possible she has either intermittent explosive disorder, borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder. I am not a doctor and, to my knowledge, no one in her family has actually been diagnosed with one of these disorders. However, through meeting some of her family members, discussions with her and them, and hearing about their individual and collective historical behavior, it seems like a very real possibility. But I cannot suggest this to her (I have tried); she flies off the handle because she is so offended. So there are two competing issues if that is the case. 1) If her behavior is a product of a disorder, I am reluctant to fault her. I feel like I should stand by her. 2) On the other hand, if she does have a disorder, especially one she is not willing to acknowledge or treat, to what extent am I obligated to remain the punching bag for its effects?

Second, does she really want a divorce? Is that what she wants or is it a cry for help? Is it an excessive, reactionary and abusive threat resulting from anger? From a potential disorder? Or is she just more prone to divorce as an acceptable option because her parents were divorced? My parents are still together so I guess I just see it as less of an option. In any case, if the answer to one or more of those questions is either yes or no, how does that affect my decision to pursue or abstain from divorce?

Third, and this may sound silly, but I am in my late 20's and in graduate school. By being around young single people, am I being subconsciously influenced to find the idea of being single in school appealing? The thought this might be the case makes me feel guilty and like any thoughts I have about divorce are ill-grounded.

Fourth, the vast majority of things we fight about are minor and inconsequential things. But, even a fight over what we are having for dinner, which should never have been a fight in the first place, will prompt her to threaten divorce. I try to explain to her how minor a disagreement it might be, but that only seems to make things worse. We have been to counseling once before and received, what I am assuming is the standard guidance on clear communication and empathy, but that didn't seem to sink in with her.

Lastly, while we do fight often, we don't always fight. Tonight is a perfect example. Last night she wanted to sleep in a different room, but tonight things are fine. Nights like tonight make me think that the fights are intermittent obstacles during an otherwise normal and happy marriage. However, I know we both currently retain, whether consciously at the moment or not, the thought or expectation that by the end of tomorrow, or maybe the next day, we will have gone through more fights and more threats of divorce. So is a more accurate descriptor a reckless and dangerous roller-coaster that is going to end up in divorce at some point anyways? To this effect, whether I can put up with it or not, if she is always going be this angry and destructive, do I want to have kids with her? And if not, how long do I try to make this work before I live my life with someone who I start a family with?

While we are young with no kids or real assets, making a dissolution rather simple, I have to admit I am also a little afraid of the humiliation of divorce. It seems like giving up or like failure. Everyone we know also kind of sees us as the picture perfect couple. It seems like I would be disappointing people; my parents in particular. And then there is the social stigma. I could never just go into a new relationship as me. It would always be "me*(Divorced/damaged/used/broken)." And what if I did get a divorce, found someone some day and wanted to get married again? I would feel foolish putting my family through another wedding, but lacking to that bride if I didn't. So would the thought of that make me less attractive to others.

If you have read this far, thank you very much for your time. I am not really sure what to do, so I appreciate any advice you have to offer.
 

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While we are young with no kids or real assets, making a dissolution rather simple, I have to admit I am also a little afraid of the humiliation of divorce. It seems like giving up or like failure. Everyone we know also kind of sees us as the picture perfect couple. It seems like I would be disappointing people; my parents in particular. And then there is the social stigma. I could never just go into a new relationship as me. It would always be "me*(Divorced/damaged/used/broken)." And what if I did get a divorce, found someone some day and wanted to get married again? I would feel foolish putting my family through another wedding, but lacking to that bride if I didn't. So would the thought of that make me less attractive to others.

If you have read this far, thank you very much for your time. I am not really sure what to do, so I appreciate any advice you have to offer.
I have read your entire post and frankly, I see that what you really need here is some confidence to trust in yourself as an individual. Your future is in your hands, you are not happy, your W is not happy and if it is your intention to "fix" your relationship, then you have to play "hard ball" and forget about what other people say. It's YOUR life. "Divorce" is no longer a dirty word and all those feelings of "failure" are not valid since you have tried to remain married to a person who doesn't want to be married to you (so she says).

Here is your "hard ball" option. Next time she says she wants a divorce, tell her she is free to leave. Let her go. Should that be her final decision, then of course you will end up divorce.d Should she change her mind, then give her an ultimatum, which would be to see a doctor about what you suspect is her reason for acting out. The decision/burden is then hers, not yours.

But I did want to ask you one thing. Since you have no children, would it not be better to deal with this NOW instead of letting it fester later?
 

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Sounds like a mental disorder & no, you are not obligated to put up with her abuse under any circumstance. In fact, the longer you do (co-dependent enabler), the sicker she becomes. Her constant threats of divorce to see if you will stick around is a symptom of BPD (fear of abandoment).

Read these forums; there is a poster here (can't remember his handle) with lots of good info about BPD.

If she does not have a mental disorder, then she has anger issues, is verbally,emotionally (silent treatment) & physically abusive (slapping) & uses threats to get her way.

I would not put up with it for a single second now but did live with abuse in my previous marriage (I left).
 

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My current situation is shockingly similar to yours, except it's my husband that's behaving this way -- it's exhausting to always walk on eggshells, right?

First of all: I'm in no way qualified to diagnose your wife -- but I do have a degree in Psychology, as well as a family that's chalk-full of mood and personality disorders (including Bipolar and Borderline Personality disorder).

So, what I can say is this: I would definitely rule out Bipolar. There is a huge misconception that symptoms of Bipolar include unpredictable, daily mood swings -- this is HUGELY inaccurate. If anything, I would say your wife's just got anger management issues.

Sometimes, as backwards as it seems, when someone's terrified of being abandoned, they push others away. I suspect that your wife has some unaddressed issues fueling this behavior -- issues that she hasn't consciously identified.

So, here's my advice: Seek extensive individual and couple's counseling. It'll shed light on why she's behaving the way that she is -- whether it be a mental disorder, or what have you.

One thing I'm sure of: If she really wanted a divorce, she would have already made it happen -- THE END. I think it's a scare tactic. I think it's a result of her feeling out of control. I think it's a lot of things, but I DO NOT think it's because she actually wants to divorce you.

...and if she does, she's nuts. You're clearly a compassionate and understanding individual, who's intelligent and dedicated. You're still young. If this marriage isn't meant to work out, you'll survive, but I think there's hope for it yet.

Good luck to you! I hope my reply somehow helped.
 

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Unsure, welcome to the TAM forum. I'm sorry you are going through so much pain in your marriage. Given what is at stake, I suggest you see a psychologist -- for a visit or two by yourself -- to obtain a candid professional opinion on what it is you are dealing with.

I also suggest that, while you are waiting for an appointment, you start reading about basic PD traits so you know what the red flags are. After all, it is pointless to walk away from your W if you are only going to run into the arms of another woman just like her.
I think it's possible she has either intermittent explosive disorder, borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder.
Unsure, I don't know what is wrong with your W. Indeed, I've never even met her. I can say, however, that the behaviors you describe go well beyond the traits of IED (which is one of the Axis 1 impulse disorders). I therefore will focus on the differences between bipolar and BPD. As you will see, I basically agree with what Emerald has already said.

I am not a psychologist but I did live with a BPDer exW for 15 years and I've taken care of a bipolar foster son for longer than that. Moreover, I took both of them to a long series of psychologists for 15 years. Based on those experiences, I have found ten clear differences between the two disorders.

One difference is that the mood swings are on two separate spectra having very different polar extremes. Whereas a bipolar sufferer swings between mania and depression, a BPDer flips back and forth between loving you and hating you. Significantly, you make no mention at all of mania but you do talk about her flipping back and forth between loving you and disparaging you.

A second difference is seen in the frequency of mood changes. Bipolar mood swings are very slow because they are caused by gradual changes in body chemistry. They are considered rapid if as many as four occur in a year. In contrast, four BPD mood changes can easily occur in four days. The latter therefore seems consistent with your description of numerous temper tantrums.

A third difference is seen in duration. Whereas bipolar moods typically last a week or two, BPD rages typically last only a few hours (and rarely as long as 36 hours). Again, these short-duration rages seem consistent with with the tantrums you describe.

A fourth difference is seen in the speed with which the mood change develops. Whereas a bipolar change typically will build slowly over two weeks, a BPD change typically occurs in less than a minute -- often in only 10 seconds -- because it is event-triggered by some innocent comment or action. Significantly, the behavior you describe seems consistent with these event-triggered outbursts.

A fifth difference is that, whereas bipolar can be treated very successfully in at least 80% of victims by swallowing a pill, BPD cannot be managed by medication because it arises from childhood damage to the emotional core -- not from a change in body chemistry.

A sixth difference is that, whereas bipolar disorder can cause people to be irritable and obnoxious during the manic phase, it does not rise to the level of meanness and vindictiveness you see when a BPDer is splitting you black. That difference is HUGE: while a manic person may regard you as an irritation, a BPDer can perceive you as Hitler and will treat you accordingly. This seems consistent with your description of very hateful, spiteful behavior -- e.g., repeated threats to divorce you.

A seventh difference is that, whereas a bipolar sufferer is not usually angry, a BPDer is filled with anger that has been carried inside since early childhood. You only have to say or do some minor thing to trigger a sudden release of that anger -- which seems consistent with your description.

An eight difference is that a bipolar sufferer typically is capable of tolerating intimacy when he is not experiencing strong mania or depression. In contrast, BPDers have such a weak and unstable self image that (except for the brief infatuation period) they cannot tolerate intimacy for long before feeling engulfed and suffocated by your personality.

BPDers therefore will create arguments over nothing as a way to push you away and give them breathing room. Hence, it is not surprising that they tend to create the very worst arguments immediately following the very best of times, i.e., right after an intimate evening or a great weekend spent together. Significantly, you describe your W creating numerous fights over issues that are "minor and inconsequential."

A ninth difference is that the thinking and behavior of a BPDer includes more mental departures from reality (called "dissociation") wherein "feelings create facts." That is, BPDers typically do not intellectually challenge their intense feelings. Instead, they accept them as accurately reflecting your intentions and motivations.

In contrast, bipolar disorder tends to be more neurotic in that the mood swings tend to be based more on extreme exaggerations of fact, not the creation of "fact" out of thin air based solely on feelings. Significantly, you are not describing exaggerations of fact but, rather, very "irrational" arguments. One example is her projection of her own bad behavior (infidelity) onto you, wherein she "uses these opportunities to turn her infidelity around on me to demonize for not trusting her."

Finally, a tenth difference is that a bipolar sufferer -- whether depressed or manic -- usually is able to trust you if he or she knows you well. Untreated BPDers, however, are unable to trust for an extended period. Before they can trust others, they must first learn how to trust and love themselves.

You do not mention anything about your W not trusting you or fearing abandonment, which is one of the two core fears that BPDers have. So, if she doesn't have trouble trusting you -- and doesn't worry about abandonment -- you are not describing a pattern of BPD traits. I suspect that when you think about it, however, you will realize she has that fear big time.

Yet, despite these ten clear differences between the two disorders, many people confuse the two. One source of this confusion seems to be the fact that these two disorders often occur together. About half of bipolar-I sufferers also have full-blown BPD, according to a recent study (pub. 2008).
But I cannot suggest this to her (I have tried); she flies off the handle because she is so offended.
If you suspect that your W has strong traits of BPD, it is prudent to NOT tell her. A BPDer will almost certainly just project the accusation right back onto you. And, because the projection takes place at the subconscious level, she will be convinced YOU are the one with strong BPD traits. The best course of action, then, is to simply suggest that she see a psychologist of her own for IC. If she has strong BPD traits, the psych most likely will not tell her the name of the disorder (for her own protection, as I've explained in other threads).

I also suggest you read my brief description of BPD traits in Maybe's thread to see if most sound familiar. My post starts at http://talkaboutmarriage.com/general-relationship-discussion/33734-my-list-hell.html#post473522. If that description rings a bell, I would be glad to discuss it with you and answer the questions you raise at the end of your post. Take care, Unsure.
 
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